Building Enterprise Mobile Apps the Smart Way

Building Enterprise Mobile Apps the Smart Way

 

The demand for mobile apps within the enterprise has exploded in recent years, with increasing need to remove paper, streamline and standardise processes coupled with centralised management and analytics of operational data.  Using mobile and smart devices has revolutionised the delivery of these services and with a growing user base that expects business apps to be as abundant and available as the consumer apps they use daily, this has had a huge impact on traditional IT services teams, and their ability to deliver quickly.

Traditional mobile development projects focused on a single process to be mobilised.  To complete this there would be many questions and choices that would need to be made prior to any application code being written.  These decisions are also normally made in isolation for the specific process needs and may not take into account any other mobile app project happening elsewhere within the enterprise. 

Questions such as mobile or tablet, operating system, hardware specifics such as camera, NFC support and location services need to be answered.  Does the app require push notification support, or the ability to work offline or over slower mobile networks also add to the questions and ultimately drive the choice of development technologies.  These questions and choices contribute to the soloed and ad-hoc approach to mobile apps within the enterprise.

The Smarter Way

There is however a smarter way to deliver enterprise apps, which enables you to focus on the application features & functionality that have real business benefits rather than the technical delivery and "plumbing" required to make apps work.  Using a Mobile Application Development Platform enables this by providing out of the box solutions to the technical areas of app building that typically consume the most effort. 

Decisions about form factor, device operating system choice can be made on business drivers later in the project and also allows for fully mixed environments running the same business process.  Offline capabilities, local databases and data synchronisation are provided out of the box through background services and with no development required.

Graphical designers enable data bound user interfaces to be built with great speed through "Drag Drop - Code Free" forms designers.  Full electronic forms and fully functional business processes ranging from simple audits, health and safety processes through to highly bespoke business processes are all possible.  Advanced user features and complex rules are provided for through scripting technologies such as JavaScript and have well defined API's to access device hardware such as camera, NFC and locational services. 

Back Office Integration

Enterprise mobile apps, provide real and measurable benefits when they are fully integrated with one or many back office systems.  This process of integration is traditionally difficult, time consuming and historically very problematic when changes are required often resulting in large development projects.

Enterprise mobile platforms typically provide middleware tools that address the integration challenges.  With suites of web service API's that enable interaction with the mobile platform data, and graphical drag and drop tools to build highly complex integration and data manipulation services which can consolidate data feeds, enabling rapid DevOps and agile delivery. 

Deployment

Another area where mobile platforms excel, is through "Over the Air" deployment of your apps.  Through the use of a "Container" approach, platform vendors will already have a pre-approved app available for download in the device app Store.  This app acts as the container for your bespoke business apps and processes, making it possible with a couple of clicks to add or remove your mobile apps over the air in real time to single, multiple or groups of users. 

This is a huge step forward from traditional app deployment and again allows you to focus on the business benefits rather than the technicalities of delivery.

Security Built In

Mobile platforms have built in security functionality that requires no development.  With all of the security "plumbing" such as user authentication, integration authentication, network security, device and data encryption available out of the box, development time is again greatly decreased.

With a containerised approach that enables multiple business processes to be deployed through a single platform, IT security is also approached only once.  Questions on application encryption, network access, data integrity and 3rd party access are answered and signed off once.  Any additional apps or processes simply use the same infrastructure and secured channels within the enterprise greatly simplifying the ongoing time to deployment challenges that are typical with separate apps from multiple vendors.

Data protection security assessments are also simplified and easier to agree.  The platform makes it extremely fast for any data to be included or more importantly removed from the mobile process.  Again this has a huge impact on the speed in which corporate data security policies can be adhered to, thus speeding up the delivery process. 

Handling the Inevitable Change

Change is inevitable within any business, and it is no different for enterprise mobile apps.  Processes will change, new data will be required, branding and style will also change over time.  Mobile platforms embrace this change by design.  If you need to add the ability to take a picture to your process, it is not a problem.  Just modify the app, add to the integration all through the graphical drag drop designers.  Once done, simply deploy over the air in real time to your users.

Delivery Speed

Enterprise mobile platforms can significantly improve the speed in which enterprises can deliver apps.  This is achieved by allowing the delivery project to focus on the business drivers and not on the technical "plumbing".  Also the inherent nature of a platform that handles deployment and embraces the change process enables rapid prototyping on real devices with real data, ensuring the user experience excels prior to deployment.

Future Proofing

Mobile technology is moving at an incredible pace.  Smart devices have a very short lifespan, hardware and operating systems are updating regularly.  This brings major challenges to the enterprise such as Bring Your Own Device, and with new and upgraded operating systems, it is important that you keep up with the latest changes.

Enterprise mobile platform vendors take this challenge away.  It becomes their responsibility to support the latest operating system release, add support for the latest devices and bring continuous innovation.

In summary enterprise mobile application platforms can have a significant impact on the speed and success of delivering mobile apps into the enterprise.  Choosing a single platform that enables multiple business processes to be built, both with consolidated cross business functional apps alongside any unique requirements and apps for specific business areas. With the ability to build bespoke mobile apps quickly, maintain them easily, have centrally managed deployment, centralised and shared infrastructure, simplified integration capabilities along with multiple device and BYOD support, mobile platforms provide a compelling and highly competitive value proposition.

Meet the author: Peter Tyler

 

Peter Tyler

Director of Technology for the FSI Group.


Technology evangelist with over 25 years of experience architecting enterprise platforms, web, mobile and integration software. Proponent of cloud orchestration and workflow solutions to ease delivery of IoT, mobile and enterprise integrations.